DeSantis: Plantation gym owner and other COVID mask violators off the hook

All Floridians who violated mask or social distancing orders during the COVID-19 pandemic are getting a pardon, including a Broward County gym owner who made headlines for his stance, Gov. Ron DeSantis says.

PLANTATION, Fla. – All Floridians who violated mask or social distancing orders during the COVID-19 pandemic are getting a pardon, Gov. Ron DeSantis says.

DeSantis appeared on Fox News late Wednesday night as host Laura Ingraham interviewed Mike Carnevale, the Plantation gym owner who was arrested three times for refusing to enforce Broward County’s mask mandate at his business last summer.

DeSantis told Carnevale and his wife Jillian, who was also arrested, that on Thursday he will be granting them a reprieve to delay the case for 60 days, and then ultimately they will get clemency.

The governor added that he will be letting the state’s other COVID rule-breakers off the hook, too.

“When our clemency board meets in the coming weeks, we’ll issue pardons not only for Mike and Jillian, but for any Floridian who may have outstanding infractions for things like masks and social distancing,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis and the clemency board had announced in March that they would wipe out fines imposed on people or businesses for violating ordinances related to COVID-19.

Earlier this month, DeSantis signed an order prohibiting any local orders to enforce COVID-19 restrictions, a move that was blasted by many South Florida leaders who say it hurts their ability to keep people safe from the virus.

“These things with health should be advisory, not punitive,” DeSantis said in Wednesday night’s Fox News appearance. “And so we’re happy to use our constitutional authority. I think [the Carnevales have] been treated poorly, and fortunately, they’ve got a governor who cares.”

The Broward County State Attorney’s Office offered Mike Carnevale its misdemeanor diversion program. Judge Robert Diaz wanted him to serve 10 days in jail as part of a plea deal.

“There is a sense of relief, but there’s also a sense of we have a lot of work to do here in Broward and I hope the people out there watching really think about this when it comes time to get into the voting booth because Gov. Ron DeSantis had it right and the Broward County Commissioners had it wrong,” Carnevale said.

But current Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said the county got it right because masks work and he’s not happy that the governor stepped in.

Carnevale’s attorney Cory Strolla said Carnevale was facing two second-degree misdemeanors for a total of 120 days in jail and Jillian faced one second-degree misdemeanor that could carry 60 days in jail.

“We’re not backing down to corrupt Broward County. We’re going to fight them tooth and nail all the way to the end,” Carnevale, who owned 1440 Fitness, said in March.

He was set to have his next court appearance next week.

The State Attorney’s Office issued a statement saying, “The cases are pending and we will continue to follow the law unless and until the governor takes official action.”

(See DeSantis’s Executive Order 21-116, Clemency)